Solidarity spoke to activists about the new possibilities for left and socialist politics, opened up by Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign.
Back to trade union roots
Martin Mayer, Unite NEC member and Chair of Unite United Left
With Jeremy Corbyn as leader, the Labour Party should no longer be ashamed of its trade union roots. We can expect to see a Labour leader standing side by side with trade unionists in opposition to the Tories new anti-union laws; and a future Labour government committed to the restoration of trade union rights and a proactive strategy to restore collective bargaining as the norm for regulating wages and distributing wealth.
Diane Jones, Red Labour Newcastle
We need to try to build a united left front within the party and linking with trade unions, harnessing the massive enthusiasm that Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign has generated and I hope, linking it with Red Red Labour.
I’ve heard many signed up Labour “supporters” say that they’ll join the party if Corbyn wins. Even if he doesn’t win, the ideas have been unleashed and nothing will ever be the same again. We need to encourage people to join anyway and to emphasise the need for activism in branches and CLPs to keep socialist values and policies on the agenda everywhere.
We can support members to do that. Also, we won’t all agree on everything, but let’s please try not to split into factions.
Women’s rights on the agenda
Lisa Clarke, feminist activist and Broxtowe CLP campaign officer
Corbyn has opened up a discussion about women’s rights ignored and at times derided by many Westminster politicians. I have seen a lot of positivity and hope in the feminist community. Hope that these words will finally turn into actions, and that we will see issues from equal pay, to violence against women, to domestic policy and childcare finally given the attention they deserve.
Cheryl Pidgeon, Labour candidate in South Derbyshire in May 2015
I would like to see a massive fundraising campaign organised for the next general election. We can have brilliant policies and great activists but we will need huge sums of money to ensure Jeremy and a socialist government can become a reality. I think we would attract new affiliations and reaffiliations.
Prue Plumridge, Maldon CLP Secretary
My focus would be on the importance of reframing the economic debate from the dominant economic/political language which has been framed in neoliberal terms for decades. It has been a very cleverly executed transformation and so even politicians who want change and are proposing radical ideas are still stuck in the neoliberal framing of deficit reduction and book balancing which cannot facilitate a new way of thinking.
Unite the left
Daniel Nichols, Romford CLP
We need to form a strong, united left movement in the CLPs and trade unions as quickly as possible to fight for our politics and resist any coup attempts from the right.
Lisa Banes, Sheffield Labour activist
We need to be promoting extensive reform in how our entire governance system works. Corbyn wants widespread consultation with members and a bottom-up approach to policy — perhaps this could be the first thing under discussion. Under our current system politics is horribly under-representative, partly because selection processes are unfairly skewed to give the wealthy an advantage (time off work, expensive printing costs for leaflets).
It also effectively means that those with young children need to either leave them with an alternative family carer, assuming one’s available, pay for an expensive nanny, or move their entire family to London, which is incredibly expensive. ntil these problems are addressed, and more besides, we’ll never be truly representative and the working classes as well as women with children will continue to be effectively locked out of Parliament.
Simon Heywood, Chesterfield Labour and UCU officer
Corbyn won’t get far, in my opinion, without a big, broad, active unified campaign behind him, broad enough to include elements of the Labour right and inspiring enough to galvanise ex-Labour voters including UKIP and stubbornly resistant non-voters, those eligible to vote but unregistered, etc.
No dirty tricks
Cllr Chris Spence, Red Labour Stoke
We need to organise collectively in our CLPs and in our communities, and ensure the Party hierarchy doesn’t use “politics as usual” dirty tricks to undermine the largest democratic mandate ever given to a leader of the Labour Party.
Investment not cuts
John Burgess, Barnet Unison Secretary and candidate for General Secretary of Unison
In my opinion, he should carry on with what he has already begun, which is to continue to expose the austerity agenda and develop an alternative anti-austerity programme. It is this work which would be crucial to defeating the racist attacks on refugees by the right wing press .
He needs to quickly align the Labour Party with already growing anti austerity grassroots campaigns. It is the work in the community that will build the grass roots support needed to ensure the Tories are defeated in 2020. This work is critical to bring back voters turned off by the current behaviour of mainstream politicians.
He needs to inspire hope that positive change can happen for everyone in our communities.
I’d expect him to work closely with those trade unions prepared to take the fight against austerity measures hitting our members, public services and communities.
Giving hope to the labour movement
Sean Hoyle, former RMT Executive member and candidate for RMT President
I first met Jeremy Corbyn a number of years ago — he and John McDonnell are amongst the only Labour politicians I’ve had any time for.
I was with Bob Crow the day RMT was expelled from the Labour Party for backing the Scottish Socialist Party, and I thought that was the death of the Labour Party as far as the RMT was concerned.
But having served on the RMT Executive, and worked with Jeremy, who is a member of our Parliamentary Group, through our Political Sub-Committee, I know he is a man who lives by his principles. He is not a “bumper sticker statement”-type politician. He is committed to the labour movement. His campaign has given hope to people who’d given up. It’s given people something to vote for, something that they can believe in.
For me, from an RMT point of view, it’s not about us coming back to Labour, it’s about Labour coming back to us. We founded what became the Labour Party, but it was transformed into something completely different. Thatcher was right to say that her biggest achievement was Tony Blair!
I’m a traditional Labour supporter, but I’ve stood against Labour on a socialist platform, as part of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which Bob Crow launched, because I felt the Labour Party didn’t represent working-class interests. Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign is about bringing the Labour Party back to where it should be — back to us, working-class people and our unions.
For a generation or more, we’ve been up against a Labour Party that’s essentially been Tory-lite. That could be about to change, but it won’t happen overnight. It might be a slow process, and I don’t think the Parliamentary Labour Party will accept a Corbyn victory. They’ll work against him. You can see that in the way the party machine has moved to expel so many members and supporters: I signed up as a Labour supporter, but was denied a vote. Jeremy’s trade union support will be vital in resisting attempts to undermine him, and I hope that the big Labour-affiliated unions which backed him, such as Unison and Unite, come good on that support and stand up for him.
There need to be a political shift. It’s no good having a great leader if the political approach of New Labour remains intact. The first thing we’d need a Corbyn-led Labour Party to do would be to support a real campaign against the Tories’ new anti-union laws.
We know what Jeremy stands for: nationalisation, getting rid of Trident, closing tax loopholes and increasing taxation of the rich, ending austerity. We can achieve those things. Ultimately, we only need to look at the numbers, working class versus ruling class.
We, the working-class, are the overwhelming majority. There are more of us than there are of them.
Restore public sector
Dave Green, National Officer Fire Brigades Union
Over the past twenty years, the public sector has been demonised by a succession of politicians, to the point where we are not only defending our jobs against cuts but the work we do in the eyes of the public who have been sold lies about our pay and pensions.
The Labour Party should restore the whole public sector, so it is once again the country’s crown jewels. There should be a rolling back of privatisation across the public sector, and a return of what has been privatised to public hands; a reestablishment of free education — up to degree level; reinvestment in the NHS.
Proper reinvestment is needed to account for the 20-30% cuts that have completely devastated our services and left us limping by on a limb and a prayer, hoping nothing terrible happens.
Rebuilding Scottish Labour
Ewan Gibbs, member Scottish Labour Young Socialists
Corbyn’s campaign shows that a class-based political alternative is possible and popular.
The biggest political meetings in Scotland all year have been Corbyn meetings. Lots of the people coming along were experienced activists coming back into the movement; a lot of them were young people who’d voted yes in the referendum, but hadn’t glued themselves to a position, and they were excited to be able to vote for a party that was going to vote for what they saw as “traditional Labour values”.
The influx has to be organised. Momentum from the Corbyn campaign can be carried forward into the Scottish Party. But this has to be done in an outward-facing way. Scottish Labour Young Socialists (SLYS) will fight for a socialist platform. If Scottish Labour can become associated with the politics of Corbyn, then that will be very important.
SLYS is a group of people on the left of the party who felt that for a while, after the Neil Findlay campaign, we needed to be organised. A surprisingly large section of these people were young. We wanted to organise around socialist politics and be involved in the broader labour movement. We’ve met a lot of people through the Corbyn campaign. We’ll have a formal launch in September.
I think that after the Corbyn campaign, there will be a lot of controversy around ideological issues. Not so much about policies, but more about the argument of what is the point of the Labour Party.
[Scottish Labour leader] Kezia Dugdale has proposed a Unionist coalition of voters. One section of the party has argued for that, along with Murphy. Another wing wants to go in a different direction.
That’ll be the controversy: do we want a small-c conservative unionist party that does its best to manage local government where it holds positions, or do we want a class-based party for working-class representation in politics, for social ownership and so on — but also for a more sensible solution to the Scottish question, based on radical federalism.
Just what we need
Rhea Wolfson, member of Scottish Labour Young Socialists, Glasgow
As far as I can see, Corbyn’s campaign just what we need.
Politics in Scotland has been looking pretty dire for the past six months, due to the total monopoly of the nationalist narrative. That’s been a disaster for Labour politics. Corbyn is giving us a tool to take the wind out of the nationalist sails.
The threat of the SNP is terrifying. It’s like chasing a shadow, they’re saying impressive left wing anti-austerity, anti-Trident things, but they feel under no obligation to do any of that. If we have a candidate who can say that we’re done with all this Blairite nonsense, that we believe in a socialist narrative that’s not clouded by nationalism, then we’ll finally have something to offer.
I was on the doorstep during the general election in Scotland, and the strongest thing we had to offer was promising people no more referendums.
We suffered because that was all we really had to say.